By Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, Ohio State University Extension, Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering
Ohio farmers will continue to hire teens younger than 16 years old, now that Department of Labor has rescinded their stricter proposal to ban all contact with tractors and power-driven machinery. So what does that mean for Ohio teens looking for summer employment?
The current legislation is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and falls under the Wage and Hour Division within the Department of Labor. This law was written nearly 45 years ago when it was determined certain tasks were dangerous for children under 16 years of age. Working with tractors greater than 20 horsepower and farm machinery were considered hazardous situations. However, there was an educational exemption put into place that would – and still does – allow students to be trained about these dangers, and then permitted to be hired. This program is commonly called the Tractor and Machinery Certification program. This is a 24-hour training class that ends with a written exam and a tractor skill test.
The current book that satisfies the educational training can be obtained through any OSU Extension county office. It is cataloged in the 4-H Family Guide, titled the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program. While this booklet will offer the educational piece for teens to self-study, the students will still need to complete the accompanying testing before certificates can be issued.
According to the current legislation, the training programs can be offered through Extension and secondary school agricultural programs. While Ohio typically certifies 150 – 300 students each year, trainings are typically not available in every county of our state. With the recent attention to this legislation, there has been an increase in awareness about the trainings. Farm managers may have become relaxed in requiring their student hires to have the certification. However, there has always been laws in this area, and will continue to be there until changes are made. Therefore, it may be to the best interest of the farm to be sure the students younger than 16 have training before they operate tractors greater than 20 HP and farm machinery.
Not having the training course does not exclude students from doing entry-level work; it merely keeps them from working in those environments that were deemed “hazardous” by the Secretary of Labor. A complete list of those tasks include:
- Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement of any or its parts to or from such a tractor.
- Operating or assisting to operate (including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding, or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation) of the following machines: Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver, or non-walking type rotary tiller.
- Operating or assisting to operate (including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding, or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation of) any of the following machines: Trencher or earth moving equipment, fork lift, or power-driven circular, band, or chain saw.
- Working on a farm in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a: Bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; or sow with suckling pigs, or cow with newborn calf (with umbilical cord present).
- Felling, bucking, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with butt diameter of more than six inches.
- Working from a ladder or scaffold (painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.) at a height of over 20 feet.
- Driving a bus, truck, or automobile when transporting passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper.
- Working inside: A fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading devise is in operating position; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo when operating a tractor for packing purposes.
- Handling or applying (including cleaning or decontaminating equipment, disposal or return of empty containers, or serving as a flagman for aircraft applying) agricultural chemicals classified under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (as amended by Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act of 1972) as Toxicity Category II, identified by the word “Warning” on the label;
- Handling or using a blasting agent, including but not limited to, dynamite, black powder, sensitized ammonium nitrate, blasting caps, and primer cord.
- Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia.
Additional information about the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Hazardous Occupations for children working in Agriculture, you can read the factsheet, Know the Rules When Employing Minors on Your Farm: ohioline.osu.edu/anr-fact/pdf/0026.pdf
It should be noted that these rules and training programs are not required when the students are working for their parents’ farms.